Finland v Ireland
17:00 Sky Sports Main Event
Death, taxes, and low-scoring Irish international matches. There are few things more certain than an Irish international match ending low-scoring, especially in their current Nations League group.
Group B4 has been the lowest-scoring group of the entire Nations League by some distance, with just seven goals scored in six games so far. No game has seen more than two goals and only two games have seen more than one goal. Only one game has seen both teams find the back of the net (Bulgaria vs Ireland on the opening day).
When that depressing statistic is studied in the context of recent Ireland internationals, the prospect of seeing a goalfest on Wednesday evening becomes even more greatly diminished. Ireland have scored one goal in their first four games under Stephen Kenny and, despite a clear intention to play more attractive football, have now been involved in two scoreless draws in succession.
They have drawn a blank in seven of their previous 15 competitive games, but they have also proved resilient, keeping eight clean sheets in the same period. There have only been four occasions in that 15-game sequence when both teams managed to find the back of the net and there is no evidence to suggest that this trend will improve anytime soon.
Finland edged September’s meeting in Dublin, but there have been definite signs of encouragement for Stephen Kenny since then. They were undoubtedly the better team in Bratislava against Slovakia and should have been out of sight long before their ill-fated penalty shootout, while they definitely should have scored at least once in Sunday’s draw with Wales.
They blatantly lack a quality goalscorer up front and are not going to find one before Wednesday, but we’re banking on one of their less potent players to find the back of the net when they do inevitably carve out some excellent goalscoring opportunities. The braver punter may back the 1-0 correct score, which has been the most common result in Group B4 to date.
Finland, meanwhile, have been going along nicely in Group B4, but they were not much better than Ireland in Dublin and there is very little to choose between the sides. We’re backing Ireland to win but this will be a very tight game.
It speaks volumes about Ireland’s goalscoring exploits that Shane Duffy is currently Ireland’s top-scorer since the start of 2017. It perhaps speaks even greater volumes that Duffy has only scored four goals in that period.
The central defender remains Ireland’s most dangerous asset up front at the moment in addition to the vital role he plays at the back and he is the standout choice to find the back of the net if Ireland are to find the back of the net.
Chances are likely to be few and far between in Helsinki on Wednesday and Ireland’s best opening may come from a set piece. If that happens, then Duffy is undoubtedly the most likely man to grab the all-important goal.
Tips for Finland v Ireland on Wednesday at 17:00